Day 53–Two Days Late…but Santa Delivers

December 27, 2011 9:14pm

December 27, 2011

S82°06.696 E055°01.951

Elevation 12220 feet

It took the time, but I am pleased to report that tonight, at 19:30 GST, Eric and I reached the Antarctica Pole of Inaccessibility! This marks a first in the history of polar exploration: until today, no team had succeeded in reaching the POI without assistance or motorized transportation. The farthest point from any coast, the POI is effectively the heart of Antarctica, and regarded as the most difficult spot to reach in complete autonomy. A bust of Lenin, and a communications tower is all that remains of the Soviet era base which has been buried by drifting snow since it was abandoned almost fifty years ago. And now our red tent brings life back to the ghostly set!

The day started bleak. I woke Eric up at 5:30 as the wind had considerably dropped, but still held a punch. We were excited to finally get out of the tent and make some miles. If the wind held, we could close the 96 kilometers gap in four, maybe five hours. But during the short time it took to clear the tent of the considerable snow banks that had accumulated during the storm, the winds kept faltering–our hopes along with them. We set off with the fourteen meters Yakuza, but within the first hour, our speed was decreasing. It was disheartening, and set the tone for hard work. Given the pattern, the winds were sure to drop, and what then? Additionally, the temperatures remained cold at around 35C below without wind-chill. The storm had shredded the ice, and the sastrugi was vicious. My legs were burning; my toes chilled; the short night was getting to me; and the newly fixed binding kept coming undone; I was not having a good day. By 14:00 hour, I could no longer get the kite up in the air, so weak was the wind. Eric, assisted me, twice, by throwing it in the air, while I did my best to get the eighty meter lines up to find wind above. Our feeling was: whatever distance we don’t cover now, we’ll likely have to walk! That was motivation enough for Eric to run his own kite and get it in the air; how he managed, I’ll never know, but he is a light air specialist. Surprisingly, by 16:00 we were still going. Rather than shutting down, the wind actually built a little. By then, it might have turned to a cruel game: we were thirty three kilometers from the POI, and we could not get out of our head that we would get just within striking distance and the conditions to shut down! Not wanting to jinx it, I chose to blow through our scheduled break. This would be like the final approach on the mountain: you push until you get there.
By 18:30, we had been on the trail for ten hours–our longest stretch of the trip. Miles had been slow throughout the day, but now they were picking up! We had fifteen kilometers to close the gap–this was happening! As if to announce it, I skied over two hollows, experiencing the same sound wave blast from ten days ago. We raced over the ice, and I looked at the empty vastness ahead of me, scanning the horizon, expecting any moment to see appear a marker. With seven kilometers to go, we set down to check our bearing. Good thing as it was forty five degrees off: we almost overshot it! We lifted off one last time and rode practically next to each other, in formation. Within minutes, I raised a fist in the air and screamed, looking over at Eric who did the same! Ahead of us, sticking from the horizon were two markers; we sped toward them. The tall sastrugi we were now crossing at a ninety degree angle no longer mattered; the burn in my legs was forgotten; and the adrenaline actually warmed my toes! In no time, we were closing in. Each foot of ice separating us from what I had so long planned for was disappearing under my skis. We could now make out a thin, derelict communications tower, and the remains of a drilling platform. And of course, the famed bust of Lenin, sticking out of the ice, propped up on a wooden stand, at once stoic, incongruous and forlorn in this desolate space; like a Napoleon on a frozen Elba, in a timeless exile. The rest of the base was somewhere below our skis. We passed the tower, made a slow downwind turn, and simultaneously set down our kites.

Fifty three days, and we were there. Eleven hours on the trail, and 96 kilometers later, the Antarctica winds relented and honored our effort by letting us close the gap with our head high and a glory’s grace. We hugged and laughed. My lips were seized by the biting cold, but I mumbled something about accomplishment in life being so fleeting that it must be celebrated. We were giddy. I set up a tripod to freeze the moment in time. Because a photo, you see, is never fleeting.

25 Responses to “Day 53–Two Days Late…but Santa Delivers”

  1. Harald Golbach says:

    Yeah, Yeah Yeah. Conrgrat Guys ..fantastic.
    May you,ll be happy, well and Safe At all Times.
    Enjoy and and further Good Wind for you…
    Keep going….

  2. Annie says:


  3. Simone Hohnhorst says:

    Wow, you did it! Congratulations, Sebastian and Eric!
    Fingers crossed for good wind for the rest of your journey, God knows you’ll need it!

    Stay safe out there!
    Our thoughts are with you all the time!
    You’ll make it, guys!

  4. steven abrams says:

    Congrats Seabass -never a doubt in our mind you would come thru with flying colours- all the best on your continued adventure

  5. Congratulations guys! Your experience is inspiring and brave! Look around and embrace the moment! Keep going!

  6. Katie West says:

    Woohoo!! I can just imagine the elation the two of you feel at the result of your hard work, focus and dedication!! Congratulations to you both on reaching the POI. Many good wishes coming your way from Ontario, Canada!

  7. Matthew B says:

    Wonderful news Guv. V well done and congrats. I’ll put the kettle on in your honour and have a cuppa.
    Can’t wait to see you when you get home.

  8. BASILE says:

    Congratulations, Sebastian and Eric
    You can be proud, and I’m proud of you
    Your tenacity finally rewarded. GREAT!!!! Awesome!
    ALL THE BEST for the NEW YEAR (soon)

  9. Katrin says:

    Another record guys!!! What an accomplishment! So proud of you!!!

  10. Fred says:

    Terrific journey and a wonderful ‘never fleeting’ photo! A special thanks for sharing each step with us as it happened.

  11. Matt says:

    Wait to guy Sebastian, and Eric! Amazing, and what a curio to discover and mark the POI. That is an impressive first, for the sake of tenacity, for the sake of humanity. And for discovering our poles so we can show the world what we risk losing, and what stands to happen to us all do we not slow global warming and stem climate change. Bravo, and thank you! So proud of you ‘Bas.

  12. Leila and Aidan says:

    Incredible accomplishment!!!!! I’m sure indescribable feeling. Wonderful. We are watching and supporting you. Feed the owl a bit of noodles!

  13. Sylke says:

    Yeah, Santa has fulfilled my Christmas wish. Congratulations guys! I’m so proud of you! May the good wind be with you … You are in my thoughts every day!

  14. That’s fantastic,well done to you both!Your persistence is amazing and inspiring in the face of all your hardships so far.It’s a privilege to read about and share in your journey.Many congrats,and good luck on your continued journey.

  15. WooHooooooooo! Great News! Congratulations!

  16. A beautiful “The End” to your Polar Psalms, Sebastian and Eric…well done! -AdamQK

  17. jodi rappaport says:

    congratulations on such a mind blowing accomplishment!

  18. Tmac says:

    amazing feat………..outstanding fortitude, love what you are doing, and you are doing a first class job, on your white gilded dance floor…………be safe, Tmac

  19. Fantastic, congratulations! Once more a legendary feat accomplished!

  20. Peter Alan Roberts says:

    Congratulations! A truly amazing and heroic adventure!

  21. Michel Schnaas says:

    An amazing feat boys. Truly inspiring!

  22. Davina Longsdon says:

    Many Congratulations. It must have been very gruelling. Have you found the parcel Team N2I left in 2006? They kite skied there with Eric’s father. I know there is a letter they wrote and left there and were hoping one day would be sent back to England.

  23. […] or motorised transportation. The following extract is taken from Sebastian Copeland’s blog post, where you can read the adventure in […]

  24. noahpz says:

    Congratulations Sebastian and Eric!!! The depths you two dug, the days passed, the intensity of the moment. There is little I can say: You have my admiration and the pride of so many before you.

  25. André St-Pierre says:

    You are demigods to me.

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